Harry Cline is also an author of the upcoming book, The A-Z Home Care Handbook: Health Management How-Tos for Senior Caregivers. As a retired nursing home administrator, father of three, and caregiver to his ninety-year-old uncle, Harry knows how challenging and rewarding caregiving can be. He also understands that caregiving is often overwhelming for those just starting out. He created his website and is writing his new book to offer new caregivers everywhere help and support.
You may be less concerned with your figure at 60 than you were at 30, but eating a balanced diet is just as important as ever. A healthy diet keeps your weight down, your energy up, and your immune system strong as you grow older. Without it, you may struggle to accomplish everything you want to do in retirement.
Despite the importance of senior nutrition, many older adults aren’t well-educated on what a healthy diet looks like. That’s where this guide comes in. United Stroke Alliance and Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp hope the information below will help you plan a healthy, affordable diet that meets your nutritional needs in your 60s, 70s, and beyond.
For the most part, healthy eating looks the same at every age. However, older adults’ bodies undergo certain changes affecting their nutritional needs, such as:
Metabolism changes: As older adults lose muscle mass and become less active, their metabolism slows. As a result, seniors need fewer calories to maintain their weight. If you’re eating less, it’s even more important to choose nutrient-dense foods.
Digestive changes: Aging affects the gut microbiome, and these changes can affect your body’s ability to digest food properly. This can lead to nutrient deficiencies, particularly deficiencies of folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12, as well as digestive ailments like constipation and gastroesophageal reflux (GERD).
Appetite changes: As you get older, you may notice you’re not as hungry as you once were. Appetite loss may be caused by a loss of taste or smell, medication side effects, or changes to a senior’s emotional health. Seniors with appetite loss are at risk of malnutrition.
If you’ve noticed changes to your digestive health, are experiencing unexplained weight gain or loss, or are struggling to eat due to low appetite, talk to your doctor. Seniors with diabetes or chronic kidney disease can receive no-cost nutritional therapy at their primary care doctor’s recommendation. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you may be eligible for a wellness program regardless of your health status. However, while many Medicare Advantage plans provide wellness benefits, not all do. Check your coverage to be sure you’re making the most of your health plan.
Maximizing Senior Nutrition on a Budget
Planning a high-nutrient, low-calorie diet is harder than it sounds. Add budget limitations to the mix, and it’s not hard to see why seniors get frustrated by meal planning. Use these tips to simplify meal time so you get the nutrition you need minus the stress:
Eat fruits and vegetables daily, but not always the same ones. Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables in different colors to get the widest range of nutrients. If fresh food is too expensive, frozen fruits and vegetables and unsweetened canned or dried fruit are great budget-friendly alternatives.
Opt for low-fat dairy fortified with calcium and vitamin D to get these important nutrients without the calories of full-fat dairy.
If you work from home, make sure you set aside some time to prep healthy meals instead of relying on food delivery services like GrubHub.
Make water your beverage of choice, avoiding sweetened beverages which are calorie-dense with little nutritional value. If you don’t like the taste of your tap water, a water filter is an economical alternative to buying bottled water.
Get more of your protein from beans. In addition to being a cheap source of protein, which many seniors don’t get enough of, beans are also high in dietary fiber. Some people experience gastrointestinal symptoms when eating beans, but this can be mitigated by introducing beans to your diet gradually. Other inexpensive protein sources include eggs, canned tuna, cottage cheese, quinoa, and chicken thighs.
Take a B12 supplement. Even with a balanced diet, many seniors don’t get enough vitamin B12. While eating dairy, eggs, lean protein, and other animal-based foods help you get vitamin B12, you may need a dietary supplement to ensure you’re getting enough.
Nutrition is only one part of healthy aging, but it is an important one. If you’re facing an obstacle that’s keeping you from eating well, whether it’s a lack of appetite, a low budget, or just old habits, talk to your doctor. With the right nutritional guidance, you can adopt a diet that keeps you healthy for life.
Blog editors note (suggestions from the internet):
How do you make soft food for those who find it hard to swallow?
Use milk, cream, or broth to mash vegetables like potatoes, yams, squash or carrots. Blend banana, melon, or frozen fruit into milkshakes or smoothies. Use gravy, broth or sauce to moisten meat, poultry or fish. Use cheese sauce to moisten vegetables, noodles or rice.
What to cook for someone who has trouble swallowing?
Those types of foods include cereals softened in milk, ground meat softened in sauce, cooked fruits and vegetables without skins or seeds, fish and casseroles. Severe dysphagia may require pureed food. “It's a pudding-like texture that's easier to hold in the mouth and swallow,”
Cottage cheese, yogurt, custard, pudding, cream cheese, ricotta cheese and other soft cheeses are all relatively easy and safe to swallow. You should, however, avoid pieces of hard cheeses, like cubes of cheddar or Swiss cheese, and any product that has added nuts, seeds or granola, such as certain varieties of yogurt.
Try canned fruit and cooked vegetables. Fruits or vegetables with tough skins or seeds such as pears, nectarines, apples, cherries, apricots, tomatoes, peas, corn, blackberries, raspberries. Try soft peeled, canned or strained fruit and cooked mashed vegetables.
Here are some great go-to's that are actually satisfying:
Smoothies and shakes.Yogurt, pudding and ice cream.Avocado.Smooth soups, or those with very soft chunks.Mashed potatoes, or a soft baked potato without the skin.Cooked fruits, like applesauce.Ripe fruits, like bananas or peaches without the skin.